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For Immediate Release, May 14, 2012

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Two Washington Plants Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection

PORTLAND, Ore.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed Endangered Species Act protection for two plants, the Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod, found only in Washington’s Hanford Reach National Monument. The agency also proposed designation of just over 3,200 acres in Benton and Franklin counties, Wash., as protected critical habitat for the two plants. The proposals are the result of an agreement between the Center and the Service to speed up protection decisions for 757 species around the country. 

“These two highly unique, very rare plants are finally getting the Endangered Species Act protection they need,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “Each of these plants is found on only one spot on Earth, so the Act’s powerful protection is crucial to their survival.”

Both plants were discovered during a 1995 botanical survey of the Hanford Reach and made candidates for protection in 1999. The buckwheat is a woody plant that can live up to 150 years and is limited to a weathered basalt outcrop on the top edge of the Umtanum Ridge in Benton County, where it is threatened by fire, invasive species, off-road vehicle destruction and trespassing cattle. The bladderpod is a showy flowering perennial limited to the White Bluffs area of the Hanford Reach and threatened by landslides caused by seepage from agricultural irrigation; fire; invasive species; and ORV damage. 

“These plants are part of what makes the Hanford Reach, the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River, so special,” said Greenwald. “Identifying all the pieces of the puzzle that make up our world and ensuring they’re not lost is important work.” 

The Hanford Reach was designated a national monument in 2000, in part because of its well-recognized plant and animal diversity. Since that time, some threats have been reduced; in particular, fences have been constructed to keep ORVs and cows away from the rare-plant populations. Endangered Species Act protection will trigger development of a recovery plan for these species, as well as further actions to secure their future — removal of nonnatives, plans to protect them from fire, and further protection from irrigation-related harm and recreational activities like ORV use. 

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